Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day of Rest

Sunday! Today is all about resting up and relaxing, getting ready for another week. Most likely a harder week. Today I've been reading upstairs in the house in Antonio's library, which I failed to take a picture of. Tonight will be dinner with Antonion and his girlfriend Francesca then off to bed early so I can be ready for tomorrow.

Just a few things I've learned in general about Italian culture and just other things I want to mention:

1. Italian's on a mission move faster than my Mom moves through the grocery store. And my mom walks FAST. It's hard for me to keep up with my friends in the Cantina, especially since I'm constantly aware of all the water of the floor.

2. I love learning new languages and here's why- When you learn a language you learn very basic terms and words first. Which means when you talk to someone or they are talking back to you, everyone has to be a short and straight to the point as possible. Sometimes this means being incredibly blunt and honest about what is going on. I guess put shortly, I love that in new languages there's no way to "beat around the bush." New languages also come with a lot of funny blunders. For instance the other day my friend Manuel said to me, " Come on baby." When he wanted me to come to help me. I was incredibly quick in explaining to him that I was NOT his baby but only his friend. Then I had to try to explain the difference. Once he understood, he was pretty embarassed. I've had my fair share of those too. Most of the time I say something and everyone busts up laughing because I've pronounced something wrong and ended up saying something dirty.

3. I got to watch Dirty Italian. Loved it!

4. In Italy you can't drive a car until you are 18. If you are caught driving drunk you get your license, all the points on your license, and your CAR taken away from you. Also if you get caught driving in high heels you get points taken off your license and have to pay a hefty fee.

5. So far I have two nicknames: Mini WonderWoman and Mini Shakiera (because I know the Waka Waka song and it seems to be the Cantina theme song for the moment).

Day 6

Ah the end of a first full week of learning and working! I can't even begin to comprehend all of the new things I've learned in one short week. I feel like with every car ride to the Cantina in the morning with Antonio I learn something different. And once I get to the Cantina there's always someone coming to grab me away from my current job to show me something new and interesting. Yesterday (Saturday) I only worked a half day.

When I first got here in the morning the botteling system was being taken down and moved away. It was quit a process; it took them about 2 hours to get it completely moved and packed up. After they moved it it was mine and Manuel's (a native of India who I think grew up in Italy) to take all the random stuff, corks, toppers, labels, boxes, trash and put it where it belonged. Then we swept up a huge pile of broken glass, crusty glue, and lots of dust from the cardboard. After that I got to follow Alessandro around while he worked on cleaning out the tanks. He explained to me that there had been a bad yeast that got into one of the tanks and now the ENTIRE system had to be cleaned out. That's a lot of tank cleaning, that row alone had about 10 tanks it in and the Cantina has about 7 rows I think. Probably one of the funniest things I've seen so far is when Alessandro was inside the tank cleaning and had to stick his head out of this tiny hole to give directions to Manueal. It was so hard not to laugh because he looked so funny with his head cocked to teh side so he could look up to talk. I laugh a lot while I'm working and I love when I'm enjoying what I'm working on. Then he took me to the top of the tanks so I could see the fermentation process actually working. It was really cool to look down inside the tank and see the yeast feeding on the sugar and creating the alcohol. One gigantic science experiment! After this and a few other random things Daniela took me to the house and I spent the afternoon by the pool. I didn't do a lick of anything productive. :)

Daniela picked me up around 7 and I went with her to have dinner at her house. She made a delicious penne with zuchini and cheese sauce for the first plate and a tradtional fried mushroom (that the had found on their own, and these suckers were HUGE) for our second plate. We had her grandma's homemade biscotti and coffe for dessert. Then it was time to get ready and head out for the evening.

Our first stop was the Enoteca, my new favorite place in the world (thus far). We walked into a bar full of very nicely, classily dressed Italians (and in case you are as oblivious to the fact as I was, most top end fashion designers come from Italy. Even people's glasses here are all Dolce and Gabana) and the first thing I see posted on a big board behind the wall is the Wine List. I've never seen so many types of wine offered by the glass or for such low prices. Well some were lowered priced. The prices got hired based on how far away the region was where the wine was made, so a Soave was cheaper than the French imports. Around the corner was another bar which had all the spirits and another huge board offering their wine cocktails! I was like a kid in a candy store. I chose a Tocai wine which I remembered to have a strong Hazelnut smell, but this one was more of a Hazelnut and dirt smell. Still delicious however. I couldn't help but LOVE the fact that I was surrounded by people just like me, who all loved and appreciated wine just like I do. Guys and girls were both drinking out of wine glasses or flutes of was like I'd finally found my bar. Maybe by the end of the trip one of the Enotecas (oh yes, this type of bar is a frequent occurance in Italy) will be like my Cheers, and everyone will know my name! :)

After the Enoteca we headed to Veince to VillaBonin. At Villa Bonin you walk in through the gates and are handed a drink card. This card keeps track of your tab for the night and also keeps people from being overserved. Also, if you loose this card you must pay €100. This is to keep people from over drinking and getting so out of control they can't keep track of a card. Inside of VillaBonin they have a restaurant which turns into a bar where the tables turn into two long dance floors after dinner, a section for Latin Amercian salsa type music, and the main section which houses the comtempory and pop culture music. There were SO MANY people. Daniela told me that people come to this club from Verona, Vicienza, Veince, and other towns close by. And everyone, young, old, boys, and girls was dancing. Another thing I found very cool is that at the Wine Bar (because yes, they have a whole seperate bar for the wines they serve...ah, have I mentioned how much I love how much they love wine here?) served appetizers, FOR FREE. They had meats and cheeses, pasta dishes, pizzas, crackers...and it kept coming out fresh all night long. I have a feeling this is another effort to keep people from over drinking, and I think it's a splendid idea! It was a great night full of dancing, talking, and eating! It was also a very expensive night as an entry fee and two drinks cost €23, which is right around $30. Eeks.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 5

Guess what I did today???!!! If you said botteling line, you are exactly correct. I'm actually even going ot come in tomorrow morning until lunchtime to help with the last of it. I can safely say that I'm a professional cardboard seperator stuffer. :)

It was actually kind of nice to be on the line today. It gave me lots of time to think. I woke up in a not great mood this morning; my body was sore from my more-than-halfway uphill run yesterday morning and I was just cranky because today is my friend's birthday and she's not around for me to celebrate it with her. I'll forever be cranky on this day. Part of me still thinks it's unfair that she was only 15 when she left. She didn't get to experience anything. I hate that. My heart hurts for that. This, if anyone has every wondered is why I jump out of airplanes and off of bridges. This is why I went to Costa Rica and why I'm trying my best to live my dream life and didn't just stay at home and get married and have kids and be part of "the norm." I don't know a lot about my life, what I want to do, where I want to live, but I know that when I die I will have some amazing stories for people to tell about me. So having time to think was good because it's always good to remember my friend, but thinking was bad at the same time because it just made me even sadder.

No worries, because I started to cheer up after awhile because my friends in the Cantina were far too nice to me for me to be in a bad mood. They are so funny, it's like watching a bunch of brothers pick on each other all day long. Quite entertaining.

Anywho, tonight I decided that I should just go home to have dinner and sit and relax. Maybe I'll finally read some more of my book or even study my Italian verbs. Tomorrow should be a very busy day though; work in the morning, home to eat and shower, out to shop or relax by the pool, then out to dinner with Daniella and out to happy hour, and then to VENICE for dancing and what looks to be an AMAZING discoteca. I am EXCITED. Woo Hoo VENICE HERE I COME...FINALLY!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 4

Today! Finally, I'm caught up! However, today I've been doing the exact same thing as I did yesterday....put the seperator into the boxes. :) I don't mind, trying to understand the language has been keeping me busy enough. For lunch I went to my friend from the Cantina, Agusto's, mom's house and we had a traditional Italian meal, "Ho mangato abastanze." I have eaten well, or I'm full. It was fun, but now it's back to the bottleing.

Tonight I'm going to have, yet again, pizza with Giovanni's (Antonio's brother and the manager of the grape fields) daugther. Tomorrow night (Friday) I will be going with Daniella...I don't remember where, but somewhere. And Saturday we will go to see Ralfiella's nephew play in a band just across the street from the Cantina and then afterwards Daniella is taking me to a Disco so we can go dancing.

Many times throughout my day I can't help but just to smile at myself. I really am enjoying all of this. I'm happy!


Writing on Aug 27th about Day 4...

After lunch the bottleing itself wasn't as exciting as what was happening in the rest of the Cantina. I didn't fully understand but I kept seeing people running from one side of the building to the other. Then all of a sudden grape juice (must) starting surgeing out of one of the pressing machines. I have never seen people run so fast to get huuuuge tanks to save all the juice! Then after that the power to the whole place went out about four times. Which I didn't mind at all because if the power wasn't working, neither was the bottleing machine. :)

Last night I going out with Giovanni's daughther, Chiara was a good relaxed time. We went to a pizzeria by her house and then walked around the corner and up a huge hill to another pizzeria that was also a karaoke bar and enoteca. It was nice to get to konw Chiara, but everyone at this bar was at least 5 years younger than me. So even through the International barrier, I could feel the wrath of highschool judgement. It was kind of nice actually, I got to reassure Chiara that once you leave highschool things start to change and people care less about the popular kids and more about what you actually have in common and that when she decides what to study she'll find lots of people to talk to about what interests her (rather and clothes and shoes, and he says she says bull poopy that goes on in high school). We didn't stay long at the bar because 1. It was uncomfortable and 2. I was so tired yesterday I literally almost fell asleep while I was on the bottleing line. I guess that's what I get for doing laundry at 2am. Oops.

Day 3 alla Cantina

So day two was when the amazing bottling truck become the stupid truck with the stupid bottle that wouldn't stop coming down the line. As soon as I walked into the Cantina it was "Rachel, you put this in there and push through here." "Ho capito." Which means I understand and has because my personal catch phrase for this trip. So I stood there as the bottling machine spit out hundreds and hundreds of bottles filled with delicious Fattori wine into boxes and I was to put in the bottle seperators and push the boxes on through the taping machine. It was all very wonderful and fascinating until about 4 hours in. Noioso is my new word, it means BORING! :) Alessandro assured me that everyone had been in my spot at one time, and I found out later that night that usually the bottleling is all finished by the time harvest comes around, but this year the wine wasn't quite ready to harvest so they had to wait. It's actually good for me because I get to see more of the entire process! Either way, the work was boring but I understand that it has to be done.

After the bottleing for the day was done, I followed Agusto and Alessandro around and watched what they were doing. They were mixing yeast and adding it to the tanks so that the yeast could ferment and be ready to have the must or pure grape juice added in. I understood most of what was going on. Usually when I say "Ho capito," I'm getting about...60% of what they are saying and then when they show me, I actually understand. They have learned that I don't always undestand when they speak to me. But it was fun to walk around with the boys and see more of the process. I even got to see the machine that harvests the grapes. Which, I've been told that I won't acutally ever be going out into the fields. Sarah told me that it's nothing glamourous or exciting, it's just dirty juice falling down your arms as the bugs attack you....I think I prefer the winery with the vats of yeast. I went around last night and took pictures of the Cantina so that I can share them with everyone so they will be coming soon. I also spoke with Antonio about what I will offically be doing while I'm here. He told me that after Friday the bottleing will be done, Thank goodness! And then I will spend time with each of the main people in the winery to see what they all do. I'll spend time with Massimo, who does machinery, Alessandro, who takes care of adding the yeast and the fermentation process, and Agusto who manages everything. I'm excited about all the stuff I'm going ot learn, and those three people are the ones who are the best when it comes to explaining things to me.

That night Anotonio, Sarah, Ralfiella, and I went to get pizza at a beautiful pizzaria in MonteBello. It was delicious as always, however I'm worried that I'll ruin my appetite for pizza if I keep eating it every day of the week! After that home and to bed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First REAL Day of Work

This morning started with a run through the grapevines. I ran up and down each row of the fields of vines in front of Antonio's house. His house sits on a mountian side so the view was amazing and the air was sweet with grapes! Only downfall was mud-caked shoes, nothing I couldn't live with.

On our way to the Cantina this morning I asked Anotonio if he had gotten the chance to talk to Giorgia about what I would be doing while I was here. Thank goodness he said they decided to put me out in the Cantina. I assured him that even though my Italian still isn't perfect I could learn quickly by being shown how to do something.

So I got to the Cantina, checked in for an assignment with Agusto and was right away put to work cleaning out the machine that sparates the grapes from the must (grap juice) and vines. I was completely soaked within my first 20 minutes but I wore a smile from ear to ear. THIS is what I wanted. I worked all day with a very patient Italian named Masimo. Masimo was very good at talking slowly and in simple words that I could understand. He was also great about showing me how to do things. I learned a lot today, and will definetly need to be shown most of it a second time. We worked together to hook up pipes from the grape seperator to the pressing tanks and then to the holding tanks and then from the cooling tanks to the pressing tanks. It was a long process and the pipes were heavy, but I think I surprised him with how muhc I could actualy do and understand. We had our first load of grapes come in today. You could actually feel the anticipation in the air as everyone stood around to watch the truck get tipped forward and the first grapes fell into the de-stemer. HOwever, the grapes didn't get far. Fattori has new machinery this year and the kinks need to be worked out. Antonio himself was down under the grates with the machine when it fired a large load of grape skins and pulp into the air. Poor guy was covered.

Today for lunch another one of the crew member made me a Caprese salad (I'm being ridiculously spoiled by everyone here, and not just the boys. They are all very friendly to the American girl with blue eyes! I can't say that I mind at all). The salad made with tomatoes and mozzerella cheese and olive oil, basil, and pepper (they have all already caught on that I love to pepper everything). It was delicious and just the right amount. I feel like I've been eating like a horse because they get disappointed when you don't eat the 3 pounds of food that they have lovingly prepared for you. After lunch it was back to the tanks to see if we could fix the problem.I pretty much just stood around and watched until Alessandro came to get me. He wanted to show me the bottleing system that had just arrived.

The thing was HUGE. It was the whole back end of a semi truck, and when they opened it,I was totally in pure awe. How can such a machine travel around in a semi? I sat there and watched as they unfolded it and just soaked in the fact that I was actually here, and witnessing all of this. Crazy. Anywho, after that I came up to update the blog and nothing that night because I was so stinking tired I had to sleep. :)

First Day of Work...ish.

Aug 23rd was to be my first day of work! I was so excited. I was up and ready to go 15 minutes before Anotonio had told me we were leaving the house. We stopped off for a quick coffee then headed to the Cantina. Once we arrived I still didn't know exactly what they were going to have me do, however, I did know that I would be in the winery and not in the fields picking the grapes. Antonio told me I should wait in the office for Giorgia to come then all three of us could decide what I would do. So I came to the office and sat and watched as farmer after farmed took Antonio out of the office. There was no time for talking as the first day of harvest would be the next day. So I decided to my myself useful and go to find something to do. I ended up in the warehouse helping pack boxes of wine. Then the crew from the Cantina came to ask if I wanted to go to lunch with them. I decided I would and found out that every day they eat lunch together at an uncle's house right across the street. I hadn't brought a lunch becuase I had no idea what the day entailed so Agusto was nice enough to buy me some tuna. He made me penne con tono and a salad, all the while the whole place was making fun of me because I don't eat meat. It's pretty much unheard of in Italy. After lunch I went back to the ware house and put some of those pretty little DOCC stickers on the necks of about 200 bottles of wine. At the end of the day my new friend Daniella from the office took me home to change and told me she'd be back to get me in an hour so we could go to a wine bar and then to get pizza with people from the Cantina crew. The enoteca was really fun because they had only wines grown in this region all open for by the glass purchase. We had enough time for one glass then we went to Agusto's to meet up for pizza. We ended up ordering in, and once again the pizza was so delicious. It was fun to hang out with the crew and get to know everyone. I'm thankful that DAniella is here and seems to like me. She's my age and her boyfriend has just left to study in California so she needs someone to hang out with. I'm glad I can be here for her! :)

And the end of my first day I was a little disappointed. I wasn't doing what I thought I was going to be doing. I didn't want to end up packing cases all the time, I could've done that at home.

Aug 19th- 22nd

Here I'm going to group some things together for the sake of being caught up. Don't worry once I start writing about my actual work I won't leave things out.

Aug 19th was my first time to see La Cantina Fattori, or the winery. It was a bit confusing because Antonio wasn't here when I got here and neither was Giorgia who had been my main contact. No one seemed to know excatly what I would be doing, so I was left to the only English-speaking worker in the Cantina, Alesandro. He took me around and showed me the inside of the winery, telling me the best he could what all the different machines did and I looked at the place with a wide-eyed childlike "Wooooooow" face. This is when Sarah came in to whisk me away. Sarah (from the UK) took me to her place in Santa Marghertia. Sarah explained to me that she is in the process of building her house and right now is only living in a one bedroom apartment. I decided to stay with Sarah until Antonio returned from his holiday in the mountians and my bed at his house would be ready. So that first day of work in Italy was spent building a chicken coop at Sarah's new house with Claudio her apartment landlord who doesn't speak a lick of English, and my Italian was still horrible. That night I got my first taste of Italian pizza at a local pizzeria called Mocambo. I had my pizza with porchini mushrooms. I must say, it was quite yummy.

Aug 20th We went to Montichiari to a big outdoor market. It not only had food but also had a lot of livestock. I didn't care so much for the animal part of it but getting ot see the food market was amazing! I got to see cheese that had been made in this region of Italy and also wine and meats as well. The food market reminded me of one I went to in Costa Rica only on Italian steriods. There was even a HUGE table of Italian candies. After the market we came home and stacked wood at Sarah's house. Nothing in the night time because we were so "stanka" meaning "tired."

Aug 21st we went to do my grocery shopping as well as to buy me an Italian SIM card. I didn't really plan on buying on but Sarah insisted, so that's where the confusion between the Italian, UK English, and States English all came into play. In the end I have an Italian SIM card that is a pay as you go with a little credit on it so that my friends from the Cantina or my boss can call me. My favorite part of the shopping that day was the grocery store! The meat and cheese counter was so neat. You walked up, got a number and when one of the 6 workers behind the counter was ready to serve you they would click up onto a board the next number and you'd tell them everything you wanted and they would get it for you. Also right by the meat and cheese was the wine section where I spied Fazzi Battagli which we sell at Vino100! I forgot to look at the price to see the comparison since they don't have to pay for importing but I'll have ot remember that for next time. This was the day that I was able to let everyone know that I had made it to my destination from my little blog spurt. After the blogging we went back to Sarah's and stacked even more wood and FINALLY got it finished. There was a lot of wood. That night we went to a local restorant call Gasparin. It's an agritourism restaurant that only cooks and serves what they grow in their region. This is a big trend for Italy. The meal was the Italian meal you always hear about. We were there for two hours and ate four courses and had three types of wine. First course was a simple polenta with asiago cheese. Second came a big bowl of boigli (thick spaghetti) with tomato sauce. Third course was a BIG plate of grilled meat. Lucky for me there were side dishes of green beans, potatoes, salad, and more cheese (yes Dad, there was stinky feet cheese and I ate every bit of it!) The last course was a type of pound cake and a type of cookie bar with red currants. The wines we had were the Savingnon Blanc from Fattori and the Prosecco from Fattori and then the Grappa that the restaurant provided with our final coffee. After that it was home to bed.

Aug 21st we spent the day lounging around until the afternoon when we went to Antonio's house to go swimming. Have I mentioned that it's been incredibly hot here, just like it was in Springfield when I left? After swimming we went with Sarah's friend Ralfiella to her sister's house for another long dinner. This dinner lasted 2 1/2 hours and, if you can imagine it, even more food than the night before. We had salad, grilled eggplant and zucchini, mushrooms, a squash and peppers mixture, polenta grilled or soft, sausage, procuicitto, chicken, I had a plate of three cheese and grilled hard boiled eggs (because Sarah and told them I was a vegetarian). Then we had a fruit course with apples, peaches, and pears. THEN we had gelato of all different flavors with something called chocolate sausage made with Nuttella and THEN we had coffee. They served a Gargangia wine that was too acidic for me, and Primitivo from South Italy that was aaaaaaaamzingly smooth and had an aroma like you wouldn't believe. They also served a new type of dessert wine that this region is producing called Durello as well as Grappa and Scotch. THEN we had coffee. I was so tired and ready to be home after this. So Sarah took me to Antonios and now I am staying there. Antonio's house is pretty big. And by that, I mean it's huge.

When I got to Antonio's for swimming that day I finally had my "Oh my gosh this is exactly what I pictured," moment. His house is large and very much in an Italian style of yellows and oranges outside and beautiful wood and antiques inside. However his house also has all up to date appliances. The best part? THE GRAPE VINES ARE IN THE FRONT YARD. It was like pulling up to Italian Heaven.

August 18th, Rome at First Sight

Landing in Rome was a bit unexpected. I say that because my flight was supposed to be 9 hours and 15 minutes, but it ended up being only a little more than 8 hours. Don't ask me how the piolot managed that but a little extra time in Rome wasn't so terrible. I got to the Rome airport around 10:30am and was waiting on my luggage until about 11. I was surprised to find out that I didn't even have to go through a customs when I got here, just got a stamp then grabbed my pack and walked out the door. My pack was, as I much suspected, very heavy. So I was glad to run into a girl from New York who was only in Rome for the day and knew that the train station in Rome had a locker you could rent for the day. She and I got on a train at the airport that runs directly to the train station in Rome. There we found the lockers and she went her way and I went mine. I decided to take the Metro (think subway) to the closest free attraction since I will be spending time in Rome later in my travels.

So thanks to the map in my wonderful guide book I was able to get on the Metro heading the correct way to the Spanish Steps and Piazza (plaza). As soon as I got off the Metro I walked into a gelatoria and had my very first taste of delicious gelato. I got a cone with Limone for €2, expensive for how much it was, but I didn't care to find another place at the time. I walked away from the gelatoria and straight onto the Spanish Steps. It was beatiful and FULL of tourists. I did love that there were not only foregin tourists but also Italian tourists. Anyone who wanted to sit and people watch from the steps gathered on the right side (facing it); people watching is big in Italy. After I climbed the steps and took my pictures I saw a tour group headed down a street so I illegally jumped in the back of the group and followed to see where they were going. Lo and behold, it was the Trevi Fountian which I had no a idea was in the vicinity. Thank goodness I was curious. :) I pushed my way through people to get down to the edge of the fountain and threw in my coin thus nailing in my return to Rome, so they say. After the fountain I saw on my map that to the North was another attraction so I walked that way along the Roman roads. I found myself in a plazza that lead to a big park that lead to another was a lot of walking, especially when I made my way back to the Metro. I took the Metro back ot the train station, visiting a grocery store there in the Termini (train station) and that's where I found my juicebox wine and my cheap fruit (I had tried to buy a banana by the plazza but it was €1.5 for ONE banana). I picked up my pack and made my way to my gate so I wouldn't miss my train.

Thank you Fattori for purchasing a 1st class train ticket. I was surround by nice people and had my own seat and a nice man sitting accross from me who helped me put my pack above my seat. My train went from Rome to Verona in about 3 hours and 20 minutes. So when Verona came, I tried to talk to the nice man ot ask him for help to get my pack down. I had my dictionary with me and had looked up all the words I needed. However, it was a horrible attempt and I ended up relying on hand gestures and "per favore?" He understood finally and I understood that my Italian needed some work. :) I barely made my train from Verona to San Bonifacio. Verona's station is very small and there wasn't a board with teh departure gates from it so I ended up showing my ticket to a stranger and saying "Dov'e?" or Where? They pointed down, so I went, found the tiny board, and was the 2nd to last person to jump on the train. **Insert sigh of relief here.** Verona to San Bonifacio was only 20 minutes. When I got there I couldn't find anyone that I recognized from the pictures the Fattoris had sent me. So I walked out side and then noticed I was being hurridly followed. I turned and there was this cute lady who said to me,"You come from United States?" She was Antonio's sister, Olympia. I stayed with Olympia on my first night in Italy. She lives in San Bonifacio above her mother's apartment which is above her family's leather shop. I was supposed to stay with Sarah, Antonio's ex wife, but she had just gotten back from vaction. I didn't care; I was so happy to shower that night and to FINALLY lay down and go to sleep. My bit of jet lag lasted about two days but sleeping in really helped me to readjust.

Back Track to Aug 17th

Okay so this was the day I left the states. Let's say I had more than a little bit of a problem trying to get all my (and I say all with as much sarcasm as possible because I feel like I brought next to nothing with me) clothing and bathroom items in my pack. I finally won that game with the help from my new found friends rolling and zip lock baggies. My pack wasn't even ready until the moment we walked out the door. Partly because I didn't have the effort or concentration to deal with the stress and partly because I was nervous and it was a way for me to put off leaving just a little bit longer. Yes, I was NERVOUS not excited like I should've been. I guess the good thing about my nerves running is that the way for me to calm down and concentrate is to well, run. So I did a lot of running and working out that last week before I left (another nervous habit is to eat everything in sight, so thank goodness the two cancel each other out!). Even the morning before I left I went for a run. The running helps because that's when I do my best thinking, my best sorting out of all the little things going through my head. So on my run the morning that I left the States I came up with a great analogy for what my life is. I like for my life to be like a new running trail because I love the excitement of never knowing what's around the corner. I can't run the same trail for too long or I get ridiculously bored and start to mentally psych myself out to where I can physically feel the effects of the activity (aka I realize I'm running and I concentrate on how tired I am and the run becomes harder to do). My new trails are bound to have hills and rocks in the roadway that I might stumble on and get a few scrapes. I feel like I've had my fair share of hills in my life so far, probably more than most people my age. I feel as if after graduating from college that I fell into a pit in my road. When I got my Fattori, it pulled me out of the pit and I started to tackle my next hill. Being a seasoned runner I know that it's best to tackle a hill by picking a spot at the top to focus on and chant a mantra like "Come on Rach, push, you can do it, go go go!" I kmnow that if you look down thus taking your eye of the prize, you will struggle with every breath and every step. The moral of this long, drawn out story? Keep your eyes up, focus on success, because getting to the summit is an amazing accomplishment. So analogy over, Thanks for listening. :)

Kyle and I arrived to the airport in plenty of time. We got to hang out a bit before I had to get on the plane. It wasn't too intimidating because my first plane was connecting in North Carolina so it wasn't the airbus yet. In the waiting area in NC I was able to sit and listen as Italians who were also waiting to get on the plane. I feel in love with the language instantly. It's so beautifully spoken. I also walked around the entire airport doing a bit of people watching. I loved comparing the people who live in different regions, just how they act and look. It was really neat to see all these types of people in one place. Not to mention the International terminal of this airport and how much fun THAT was! I'm a dork for loving airports, but I really can't help it. Anywho, I was really lucky to have all my connections (planes, trains, and automobiles and yes there were all three and yes in that order) on time and I caught them all!

On my flight to Rome: Once I was in my seat and buckled in, I made the switch from nervous to excited. I have dreamed about Italy like most girls dream about their wedding day; since I was a little girl and in many details. My plane ride was just over 8 hours. I was able to sleep for about four hours on the plane and with that four hours August 17th turned to August 18th.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm here, I'm safe!!

Lots to tell everyone, but as of right now I only have a few minutes to tell you I'm here and I'm okay. All my flights and trains were on time, and I even had about three hours to tour a bit of Rome. Very first thing I ate when I got here, gelato! Yummy. I've had lots of pasta since then as well. I won't start working on at the winery until Monday, but I've been working pretty hard none the less. So far I've helped put up a chicken coop and stack lots of wood, and I'm going back to stack more wood today. The girl I'm staying with, Sarah, has a farm so there are lots of animals. Sunday night I will move into the apartment at Antonio's house. I will be there on my own, which will be nice so I can finally unpack! Just a few points of interest:

- The public toilets here are a glorified version of a whole in in the floor.
- I've eaten pasta every day since my arrival, and the pizza is as good as everyone thinks it should be.
- Trying to obtain an Italian SIM card is a bit difficult when you're translating from American English to UK English to Italian.
- They sell wine in a juicebox form. Forget Juicey Juice!
- So far I've gotten stared at/hollared at less than in the US AND a lot less than in Costa Rica, really the only people who stare are little kids.
- And yes, for anyone who knows just how much i love Special K cereal, they have that here as well. :)
- Grape vines really do grow around here like the beans and corn grown in MO.

Okay, that's all I can do for now. When I get more face time with the computer I'll backtrack and tell you all the details of my first days here. Don't worry, I'm doing an excelent job of keeping up with my journal. For now, it's back up the hill/almost mountian to Sarah's house to stack the wood. Oh, and we've had lots of tea breaks since she is English, AND the coffe here is served one ounce at a time....where's a starbucks when you need it? And I have pictures that I will post when I can as well! Ciao!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tomorrow's the Big Day!

Sorry to leave you guys hanging. The last couple of days have been quite a doozie. Our evening at my sister's was wonderful. I was excited to FINALLY taste my Fattori wine, and I actually really enjoyed it! Which was surprising only because Pinot Grigio usually isn't a favorite of mine, or even a choice of mine. This one (I'm about to describe my wine, I won't be offended if you're not a wino and want to browse over this part) was really light in color but surprisingly pretty heavy in body for a Pinot Grigio. It had a beautiful nose on it of a fruit that I can't remember right now but i know I wrote it down so I'll have to fill that in after I find that piece of paper! It tasted fruity at first then hit a minerality then finished with almost a rich buttery taste, kind of like a Chard but without the oakiness. Anywho, it was delish and didn't last long. I'm glad I got to share my special wine with family and friends (what little of it I did actually share that is, I'm pretty selfish with my wine). Sunday morning I got to go to my last church service (in the states) with my family on base. It was great to have that time to really focus on being grateful for being given an opportunity like this. I really struggled to feel happy and fulfilled in my career until I found Fattori, so I know the Big Guy had a hand in it and I'm very thankful. It was also a great opportunity to really get my mind focused on my trip.

Anyone who has traveled overseas may be able to understand the process of mentally preparing yourself for everything that is going to just...change, with just a simple change in location. What you see, what you hear, how you feel and how you react to those feelings are all different in a new country. It could be something as little as you can't depend on having your Special K cereal every morning for breakfast to something as big as seeing homelessness and starvation. Either way, you have to let yourself know that things will not be how they always are...and that can be frightening. Most of the time my biggest challenge is getting used to just going with the flow. I'm a BIG fan of always having a plan and knowing how my day will play out when I wake up in the morning. It's different when I travel though. You have to be open to trying new things at random times or you're bound to miss something amazing. I'm looking forward to throwing my daily schedule out the window but I've already had issues with kinks in my plans (aka my clothes don't necessarily fit into my bag like they should) not going as I thought they would. I know I'll figure it out, but it irks me that it didn't work out how I wanted it to. I'm gonna need an attitude adjustment before this time tomorrow. :)

Sunday afternoon Kyle and I left my sister's at 1pm for a 4.5ish hour drive back to Springfield. We got home at 9pm. Something doesn't add up, you say? That's because we got a flat, the flattest flat. We also go served up a perfectly slanted hubcap so that the spare couldn't be put on, a supposedly cheap but in the end expensive tow truck, not so smart or customer service oriented staff at Wal-mart, someone to help at PepBoys, two large bills, and a 5:00 lunch at Taco Bell. Luckily we got the flat right in the middle of Tulsa so at least we weren't on the turnpike.

Today I spent doing last minute shopping. Then last minute correspondence. Then I went to view my pictures that my cousin shot. Then Kyle and I left Springfield once again to come to Columbia to stay at his Mom and Step-dad's for the night. So I have not had a lot of time to do the things that I really should have been doing all day, like pack. As I sit here typing my backpack is STILL not properly packed. It's sitting hopelessly on the floor with clothes scattered all around it because I HAD to get my contacts out of my eyes and my glasses were on the veeeeeeeery bottom of everything. I'm about to go attack that pile before it gets horribly, well, early in the morning.

Tomorrow we'll leave for the airport at 8:30am. My flight leaves at 12:51pm. I should be in Rome by 9:30am on August 18th their time, so if you're in central time here in the States that would be about 2:00am our time. From the airport I'll take a train from to the main train terminal in Rome. There I'll wait about 3 hours until my train leaves for San Bonifacio where my family will pick me up at 8:00pm. It's gonna be a loooong day.

I better get started on that packing thing. Ew. Wish me luck. I can't believe tomorrow is the big day. So many emotions; happy, excited, sad, scared,'s like a glass case of emotions (if you've seen Anchorman you know what I'm talking about). Anywho, I'm signing off until...I'm not sure when. Hopefully by Sunday you'll hear how wonderful it is and how lovely it is and how my family is amazing. How's that for projecting? ;)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sushi Love and Total Fear

Yesterday's drive to Oklahoma wasn't too bad. I'd like to give a shot out to the department of transportation for Oklahoma who had the brilliant idea to block off an entire lane all the way through Tulsa plus a few other large chunks of the toll roads for construction. At least it kept me alert. For anyone who has driven through Oklahoma or Kansas on a long trip, you understand that anything that keeps you from being hypnotized by the middle lines on the pavement passing by at the exact same speed over and over and over is much appreciated. However the long trip is so worth being able to spend time with my sister and brother in law, and all those I love in Oklahoma!

When I got here yesterday my sister was ready for some pampering. We went and got pedicures and then went shopping at Target for all the little travel size goodies for my trip. My toes look amazing, but I couldn't help but think that in as short of time as two weeks that cute blue color will be chipped and more than likely a nice shade of dirt. On that note, I've made an effort to get dressed up in all my nice clothes and do my makeup as much as possible because by the time I leave Oklahoma I won't have all my cutsie stuff. No heels, no straightener, only three's going to be totally different from what I'm used to.

Last night we went to eat my favorite meal, SUSHI! I've actually wondered if they have sushi in Italy. They have a lot of fresh fish (so I'm told)so it could be logical for there to be some sort of sushi restaurant there....but do you really want sushi made by an Italian? But when you think about it, how many times have you been to a Japanese restaurant and your hibachi grill chef is from Mexico?

Today, in the spirit of my upcoming trip (2 days until go time), we went to see Eat, Pray, Love. It was even a little more fitting because I actually read the book while I was on my first solo trip to Panama (under a palm tree, on my own section of beautiful beach, eating a ridiculously fresh mango). The book was great, but the movie would've been a little boring if I hadn't read the book. Obviously my favorite part of the movie was when she was in Italy. I got to see scenes from Rome and Naples, both places I will be visiting. I still can't imagine what it's going to be like to actually see all the buildings and sites I've been learning about in history class.

Seeing the movie also made me realize that I'm only two full days away from leaving the country again. Yes I'm excited, but let's be honest here, I'm scared shitless. Yes, I'm scared. I'm scared. If I ponder on the thought that in two full days I will be without my family, friends, comfort of my belongings, and a language I can understand completely, I start to freak out a little. And as long as we're being honest, it's more than a little, it's a lot. I know it's a lot because my eyes start to water and I'm not your typical emotional laden girl. I don't just cry. I think it's stress and nerves and obviously fear. Fear that something is going to go terribly wrong and this whole trip and experience will go up in flames. I know I'll feel better once I'm there and don't have anything else to prepare for, but as the day gets closer and closer the stress and my nerves are really starting to wear on me.

Lucky for me, I have a great group of people to de-stress with this evening. I'm in for turkey sandwiches, grilled corn on the cob, and a we're finally going to open up my bottle of Fattori Pinot Grigio. I couldn't think of a better time than now to get a taste of what I've gotten myself into. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hard day in the life of a Model

Today started early again with more photo shooting with Ikeonography. We had a great time today shooting out in a wooded area in the middle of Springfield and in Vino100. Of course it helped that all the pictures at Vino included a nice cold glass of wine! When the pictures come out, pay no attention to the level of the wine in the may or may not have evaporated slowly over the shoot. :) After my morning doing the hard work of a model, I came home and took a much needed nap. Amazing how a little bit of sleep and a lot of stress can add up then sneak up on you so quickly. This evening was spent trying out a new restaurant downtown with Kyle's family and saying more goodbyes. Not quite the last of the goodbyes though. Times like these (that is leaving the country, or for other people it could be like having a wedding or a baby, anything that brings everyone you know together at once) really make you realize how many people you meet and get to know in a lifetime. It's great to know that even at the ripe old age of 23 I've made an impact in the lives of others. Here's to hoping they were GOOD impacts!

Anywho, tomorrow (4 days before go time, whoa.) I'm headed out to Oklahoma to deliver pile number 2 and my car to my sister and brother-in-law. It's not all business though. I'm looking forward to a girl's day out at the salon, a sushi dinner, Eat Pray Love, and some grilled corn on the cob! Mostly things that will seem rather foreign to tiny budget in Europe. Needless to say, I'm going to enjoy them thoroughly this weekend (while I can afford them without having to sacrifice my daily bread rations)! Tonight I've still got some um...organizing, to take care of. After the shoots with Ike my nice piles are more like a massive messy mountain-esque type thing of clothing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Less than a week!

So keeping up on my blog everyday until I leave may be a little harder than I thought. BUT I would like to say that it's because I don't have two things: 1. My computer and 2. Time. So let's backtrack to yesterday which was Tuesday, 7 days to go.

Tuesday went like this: Sleep in a bit (because I was up until 1:30am packing). Wake up early. Pack the car. Drive 4 hours to Dawn. Unpack car. Spend time with Dad. Spend time with Mom. Drive 4 hours to Springfield. Wash clothes. SLEEP. Well, not a very exciting day, but productive. One pile down. For those of you keeping track. :)

Today (Wednesday, 6 days to go) was a little more exciting! And, the best part is, my blog will reap the benefits of all my charlie horses from holding poses! I woke up early to meet my cousin Ike, owner of Ikeonography, for "The Traveling Wine Chick's" first photo shoot. First we discussed a semi-game plan, then headed out to Sequiota Park. We gave several hours, lots of poses, gallons of sweat (imagine 102 degrees on top of a rock with the sun hitting your face juuuuust right), and many laughs in order to get our shots. After an icy cold beverage at the conveniently located ice cream shop, we headed to a willow tree were we played with lighting to get some more awesome shots. It was a lot of fun spending time with Ike. I felt like a model and his pictures were amazingly beautiful as well as creative! I'm excited for tomorrow when I will go to take even more pictures with him, and for him to finish them up so I can post them on my blog to share the wonderful-ness of his work!

Speaking of case you didn't notice the teenie tiny new two-liner link on the right hand side of your screen; I've started to post pictures! The first official album is of my going away party at Bruno's and my surprise party at Vino100. Enjoy the pictures, please, because I can only upload them 5 at a time so it's a whole lot of effort...I'm working hard to keep you all reading! :) Stay tuned for another update, it's about to get crazy as I hit the 5 day mark!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hey Mister! That's an Organized Pile!

This morning I woke up to piles, piles everywhere. Piles to go to Dawn, piles to go to Oklahoma, piles to go to Italy. PILES!! Kyle tried to throw his dirty clothes on top of one of my piles and I had to help him realize there was a method to my madness, or messiness rather.

It's getting down to the wire. Just to catch you up to our current time frame:

My last day at OTC was August 6th. The staff had a food day in my honor, and they even sang to me! I had no idea I would be so greatly missed. It made me feel good to know they cared so much. I'll miss you guys and appreciate all you did for me!

Saturday August 7th was my going away party. A group of 15 people all got together at an Italian restaurant downtown to celebrate a new adventure in my life. It was awesome to know that so many people were going to miss me while I'm gone! A true bitter sweet moment.

Sunday August 8th marks the day of that, I have to confess, I had that moment. That moment that really reminded me that I AM my father's daughter. WHAT IN THE WORLD DID I JUST GET MYSELF INTO??? I quit my full time job with benefits. I'm running off to a country where I don't completely know the language. And I'm not going to have any income for at least three months... I couldn't get to sleep for quite awhile. However, it was only a moment, and my more...shall we say, outgoing, spirit took back over and I'm back on track with my dreamily thinking.

Today Monday August 9th, marks 8 days to my departure. EIGHT DAYS. Eight. Wow. Okay so it's focus time, BUT not before having a wonderful SURPRISE! A week or two ago my boss at Vino100 asked me if I could work a shift for him at the store tonight. Little did I know, he and some of my favorite regulars were planning a surprise party for me! I was so happy and felt so loved that they would plan that for me. You guys are so sweet, and I loved being able to sit and have wine with you and just be able to visit before I leave! You guys are all so awesome. *I'd like to take a minute to point out just how many amazing friends I have. You ALL are seriously better that I could've asked for!* Okay so now that tonight's party is over it's time to get stuff to Dawn and Oklahoma, and myself off to St. Louis to my plane! So tomorrow we'll start with pile number 1. I'm driving to Dawn (4 hours) and back (an equal 4 hours) in one day. My goal is to be out by 8am and back around 6. We'll see how that goes... :)

As for the rest of the week, I'm going to try to give you updates everyday until I leave, even if they are shorties (like me! haha!). Wednesday the Traveling Wine Chick is book for Part 1 of a photo shoot with Ikeonography. I'm excited to work with my cousin and see what he can do! Wednesday night will be dinner with Kyle's family! Thursday is more pictures and cleaning up the car so my sister and brother in law have a nice clean "rental" to drive. Friday is a trip to Oklahoma to drop off the car (and pile number 2) and say goodbyes to my family and friends there. We'll get back Sunday only to leave again on Monday night for STL so I (along with pile number 3) can catch my plane at 12:51pm (random, I know, and believe me I WILL be checking to see if it leaves at exactly 1 minute after 12:50).

So basically the moral of the story is, BUSY, BUSY, BUSY. Stay close and I'll keep you updated as possible! As for now, it's time to pack of my computer and get it ready to go back to Mom and Dad's tomorrow.